How Much Water Does A Horse Drink In One Day

While not all 400 million horses in the world live on farms, it is a common sight to see them on ranches or other agricultural sites. Although their numbers are decreasing, there are still millions of horses used for agriculture and transportation. And if you are curious how much water does a horse drink in one day, we will let your imagination do the rest!

How much water does a horse drink in one day? It all depends on the horse’s size and how active it is. Here are some general guidelines you can follow to keep your horses hydrated.

Why does a horse sometimes refuse to drink?

Horses have a very good sense of smell and taste and will refuse to drink, even to the point of dehydration, if their water supply is polluted, stagnant or sometimes even if the water supply changes suddenly – irrespective of whether the water is clean or not. Observe horses that are new to a property to check that they are drinking enough. When you take your horse out for the day (to a show or for a trail ride for example) be aware that your horse may not drink enough as the water may smell different to the water they are used to, even if it is very clean. Try to take some water from home with you so that your horse has access to familiar water for the day. One way of getting horses to accept unfamiliar water is to flavour the water at home (you can use a little molasses for this) for a few days before travelling and then flavour the new source of water, gradually reducing the flavour until the horse has accepted the new water source.

1. Horses normally consume between 5 and 15 gallons (approximately 20–55 liters) of water in a 24-hour period. The individually stabled horse is usually easy to monitor for water intake if you are filling five-gallon buckets two or three times a day. If a horse is kept on pasture or in a herd on pasture, assessing water intake becomes increasingly challenging, but not impossible.

Hydration can easily be assessed in individuals within a herd by feeling their gums to ensure they are moist and pinching a small area of skin on their neck or shoulder to watch it bounce back to its normal position,” advises Huntington.

2. Field-kept horses obtain moisture from pasture. In fact, fresh pasture is approximately 60–80% moisture, meaning they obtain a substantial amount of water while grazing. In contrast, grains, concentrates, and baled hay contain far less moisture, which means horses need to drink more to meet their water needs. Another factor to consider in a herd situation is pecking order. If you suspect that one or more horses are being chased away from the water trough, consider adding a second trough.

3. Weather and exercise can impact water consumption. Typically, horses consume more water during the hot, humid summer months. That said, some horses actually drink more water in the winter than in the hot summer (recall that the quality of forages is generally not as good as in the summer, with less moisture). It’s also important to bear in mind that horses are different and do not need to consume the same amount of water to remain healthy.

4. Underlying health issues can impact water consumption. Diarrhea or chronic kidney disease in particular can cause increased water losses from the body that need to be replaced. Such horses will need extra water to facilitate recovery and maximize quality of life.

5. “Natural” sources of water such as streams or ponds should not be used as the horse’s primary water supply. If they choose to drink from those sources, it is not usually a concern, but they should still be offered fresh water. The quality of streams and ponds cannot be guaranteed, and pollution or algae blooms can impact the safety of those water sources at various times throughout the year. Horses can also have difficulty accessing the water in ponds and streams if the shores are muddy or frozen.

Generally speaking, we see more digestive concerns during the winter months than during any other time of year. This is related to a decrease in water intake whether it is caused by a lack of supply, e.g. frozen water; cold water decreasing intake, or just not enough water being provided to the horse. Another factor can be the horse that was eating the lush pasture which may contain 75% water is now eating hay which contains 10% water. The horse still requires at least 10 gallons of water but is now relying on us to supply it. Older horses and those with dental issues may not drink very cold water, again adding to the problem of insufficient water intake.

The question becomes how we insure our horses are drinking enough water to meet their needs during the winter. During the summer, electrolytes were fed to encourage the horse to drink. We often feed them when traveling to get out horses to drink more. This same concept should be used in winter; judicious use of a quality electrolyte often helps in maintaining proper hydration in the horse. Other ideas include insuring the horse has access to water at all times. Use heaters in water troughs where freezing is an issue, check the water supply daily, make sure the water is free flowing; for older or debilitated horses heated buckets can warm the water to an acceptable temperature.


The conclusion is straightforward: 1 acre-foot of water is enough to keep a horse happy and healthy throughout the year. If you want to know how much water you’re looking at, just figure out how much there is on your acre of land—then run the calculations for your area. It can take some calculus to find out how much that all adds up to, but once you run the numbers, it’s easy to see where it needs to be.

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